A start-up biotech company from South Africa, Cape Carotene, has received funding from Cape Biotech to develop technologies to produce astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant and dietary supplement used in aquaculture, from algae. According to a report in the Cape Business News:
The algae will be grown in small, shallow ponds for a short period. The algal strain has been derived from fresh water culture collections which has been adapted for commercial use. Once grown, the algae will be ‘stressed’ by changing the growth conditions which induces it to synthesize astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is produced by the cells as a secondary metabolite, which is only found in a specific cell state. The algal cells are then harvested and processed.
Although Cape Carotene’s immediate target is to export the naturally produced astaxanthin to European fish and feed industries, the company also plan to develop it as a nutraceutical for human consumption. Because of its antioxidative properties, much research has been done on the possible benefits of antixanthin in age-related macular degeneration, neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and even cancer.